Wednesday, January 21, 2015

R&D for Business Support of Tutor/Mentor Programs

Many companies spend billions of dollars on research and development (R&D) so they stay competitive in their markets or capitalize on new opportunities. How many spend even a few thousand dollars a year researching reasons for being strategically involved in youth tutoring/mentoring programs? Think about that as you read the rest of this article.

This is National Mentoring Month, and the final event will be the National Mentoring Summit being held in Washington, DC. I've attended in the past and there are great speakers and many valuable workshops. However, I've felt that the ROI (return on investment) has not been as great as it could be. No matter how many people attend a conference, each person can only meet a few. No matter how many workshops are offered, each person can only attend one in each time slot. Unless the conference is building public awareness that draws support (dollars, volunteers, etc.) to my own organization in Chicago or another city, the money I spend for room, travel and conference fee may not be worth the investment.

Does this mean don't go? No. Does this mean I'm no longer hosting Tutor/Mentor Conference in Chicago. No.

What it means is that I feel we need to find ways to bring people to on-line spaces where each person can spend time digging into the information a conference might offer, or that each participant brings, based on their own experience. That means each person needs to be sharing their ideas more completely in on-line space. I hope my example serves as a model.

During October-Dec 2014 I posted a series of concept maps outlining the vision and strategy of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, now led by Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. In order for me to host this information, or be more effective communicating my ideas, I require consistent funding and talent. So do leaders of any tutor/mentor program operating in Chicago or any other city. Since government and philanthropic support are inconsistent, and don't reach all programs consistently, I've always focused on business as the prime supporter of youth tutor/mentor programs.

Why? Because it benefits their own workers while developing a future work force. This article focus on the untapped potential of business investment.

Following are some concept maps that I've created to illustrate this point.

This map shows reasons a business might support the growth of volunteer based tutor/mentor programs in cities where it does business, for strategic and workforce development reasons.

This map focuses on ways volunteer involvement in organized tutor/mentor programs might support workforce development within companies that encourage employee involvement and provide infrastructure support to places where employees do get involved.

This final map is a guide to "recommended reading" that company leaders might browse to build support for their own strategic, long-term involvement with volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in communities where they have facilities or do business.

Browse other articles on this blog to see how companies might use maps to support a growth of their involvement, or to serve as hubs for involvement of multiple businesses within the same geographic part of a city. Browse these leadership and workforce development articles on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC blog, and this section on the T/MI web site, for more resources to support business investment in volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs.

I hope these ideas are being discussed at the Mentoring Conference in DC, but I also hope we can attract R&D people from thousands of companies in Chicago and other cities to on-line conversations where we dig deeper into the ideas represented by these maps. Perhaps we can even find a few companies to sponsor and lead this discussion.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

High Profile Killings since 1984. Civic Institutions Structural Failure.

Today's Chicago Tribune included a perspective written by Dan Profit, a talk show host on WLS 890. It started with listing the high profile deaths of Chicago youth like Ben Wilson (1984) then jumped to Derrion Albert (2009), Hadiya Pendleton (2013) and Demario Bailey (2014), then said "These are children in Chicago whose gruesome deaths give life to the dreary body-count headlines that bleed over from one day to the next."

The article focused on how media attention is short-lived, and concluded with "In short, Chicago's civic institutions are structural failures. City government has failed. CPS has failed. The Police Department has failed. Nearly everything we have tried has failed." He writes, " We need to contemplate and debate deep, transformative, difficult changes."

I've highlighted these same stories since the early 1990s. There were quite a few high profile stories between Ben Wilson in 1984 and Derrion Albert in 2009.

Since 1993 I've offered a strategy, that if it had been embraced and followed over the past 20 years, would have resulted in a stronger network of tutoring, mentoring, learning and career development programs in all high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago, engaging people from all parts of the region in an on-going effort to make such programs available and help them each become the best at transforming lives of youth and adult participants. This story in the 1995 Chicago Tribune is one of many that give evidence that such a plan existed.

As the Internet has become a tool I've moved my ideas and resources to web sites. Since late October 2014 I've shown concept maps that visualize the strategy and point to the information available in the library.

In 2011 I set up a conversation thread on Debategraph where we start with the topic "Helping kids in poverty move to jobs and careers". This is a platform where the conversation is broken down into sub topics, and then sub-sub topics and is intended to engage large numbers of people. In blog articles on the Tutor/Mentor Institute site I've pointed to additional tools that can support community-based problem solving.

The central tenets of the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy are outline here and here and here.

Better information, including maps showing locations of existing programs needed to help youth move from one grade to the next, is essential. There's a cost to collecting, maintaining and constantly updating this information. However, without more people looking at the information it has little value. Since non-profits don't have advertising dollars to reach out every day to millions of people, other strategies need to do this work. I've collected news clips of hundreds of media stories. Few, if any, point readers to resource directories where they can find organizations where they can get involved with their time or talent.

More frequent "call to involvement" messages, in traditional, non tradition, business and religious media will bring more people to the type of information I and others share in on-line libraries. However, there also needs to be a process of facilitation, helping people find information they are looking for, understand existing information, and ways to become strategically involved on a personal or organizational level. Church groups have weekly discussions of scripture. The Tribune has a weekly feature highlighting "book clubs". A strategy that encourages people to learn more about poverty, violence, jobs, education, etc. and about places where they can get involved, would result more people building a growing sophistication of where and how they could give time, talent and dollars to help youth move safely through school and into jobs.

Unfortunately, I've not been able to attract consistent support from city leaders to this strategy. Not that I've not shared these ideas in a variety of formats since 1993.

I'll share this article on Twitter, Facebook and other media over the weekend. Hopefully people like Dan Profit will take a look and become an advocate and champion for this strategy. I encourage you to browse this blog and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC blog, to find more stories like this that you and people in your own network can use to support your own planning and growing involvement.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Using Information as part of Problem Solving Process

Since October 25th I've been posting a series of articles that use concept maps as a tool for communicating strategy for helping kids in poverty move from birth to work, while also pointing to resources available to support leaders who adopt this commitment.

In the Tutor/Mentor Institute blog you can see more articles where I've embedded concept maps and ideas on systems thinking.

Today I'd like to introduce another map, showing the process I've been developing over the past 20 years.

On the left, I show the inputs, or information I've been aggregating since I formally created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. Across the middle I show various ways I've tried to expose this information to a growing number of people. Since I've never had advertising dollars, nor support from high profile business, political or celebrity spokespersons, the number of people I've reached has been limited, but still over a million visits to my web sites alone since 1998.

On the right, I show how formal and informal learning can help people innovate new ways to draw resources to all tutor/mentor programs in a geographic region as large as Chicago, and to help leaders of these programs use these resources, and what they can learn from each other, to constantly improve the work they do to connect youth and volunteers and help kids succeed in school, and move to jobs and careers not limited by poverty.

I've been sharing ideas like this on blogs since 2005 and email newsletters since 2001. I published printed newsletters between 1993 and 2001. Everything I've done can be done much better by others who may have more talent and resources than I have.

I've been looking for leaders in business, universities, philanthropy, etc who embrace the strategies and the way I share this information, and who want to adopt my efforts and support them with their own leadership and resources into future years.

If you're interested, here's a link to social media places where you can connect with me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tutor/Mentor Web Library Aims to Support Innovation in Youth Support World

On October 25 I started a series of articles showing Concept Maps I've created. The first was a "Strategy Map" that could be adopted by any one in business, philanthropy, politics, as a unifying image that engages the entire village of people in a city in on-going efforts intended to help youth move more successfully from "birth to work" with the help of a wide range of "extra adults" beyond family and traditional educators. Then I showed a 4-part strategy that would lead to achieving this vision, if adopted by everyone who commits to the first map.

This next map shows the information available in the Tutor/Mentor Connection web library.

The library divides into four sections. 1) Research - why and where are volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs needed? What do they look like? How do they differ?; 2) What do I need to know about the "business" of building and sustaining a non profit tutor/mentor program that needs to grow from a start up to becoming a great organization, and then needs to stay great over a decade or longer? How to raise money? How to recruit and train volunteers? How to draw attention to your organization?; 3) If I'm a parent, volunteer, donor, reporter, etc., how do I find individual non-school tutor/mentor programs in Chicago? How might I find volunteer involvements in other forms of service?; and 4) Where can I find ideas about collaboration, innovation, knowledge management, visualization and mapping that I can use to stimulate innovation and constant improvement in my organization?

While the map above shows these four information categories in detail, the map at the left shows the four sections. Click this link to go to the map. At the bottom of each node, you can click into additional maps that offer greater detail on each section, or into web sites with information related to each node.

There is a lot of information in this library, just as there's a lot of information that you will need to learn to get a degree from Harvard, Stanford, Oxford or any other university. You don't need to learn it in a day. Keep coming back to it as you build your program, or you build a corporate support strategy, and look for ideas that you can use to constantly improve the impact and scale of your effort.

I've been following MOOCs, such as the Deeper Learning MOOC, for the past couple of years. I feel the structure of these offers a form of organized learning that could attract a growing number of people who need to be involved in building and sustaining a citywide, or nationwide, network of high quality non-school tutoring, mentoring and learning programs. Such MOOCs could lead people through the various sections of my library, and of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site, so people build their own understanding of the ideas and resources that are available, and learn to apply the information in their own efforts, and to add new information to the library based on what they are doing in their own programs, and what they learn through their own efforts.

I just need to find partners in universities, business and philanthropy to organize these, as well as manpower and talent to maintain the library, the concept maps, and share them daily with others throughout the world.

Friday, October 31, 2014

How does a city get from "here" to "there"?

There's plenty of information showing a need to provide extra learning support and mentoring for youth in high poverty areas, but few examples of sustained, decades-long, efforts by cities to build and sustain a network of programs reaching a growing number of youth in all of the high poverty areas of a city. I've used maps and graphics to illustrate the need for planning, leadership and resource development strategies that would take a city from its current level of youth serving organizations to a future level reaching more youth with higher impact organizations.

Last Saturday I posted a "strategy map" illustrating a shared commitment that needs to be adopted by leaders in every sector of business, philanthropy, government, education, non profit, etc. so more are innovating and leading actions that support the growth of strong programs.

Then on Tuesday, I posted a concept map illustrating the different supports youth in high poverty areas need to move from first grade to first job, over a 20 year period of continuous support, available in multiple neighborhoods.

So what might a city need to do to mobilize and support this level of sustained effort? Since 1994 I've been piloting a four step strategy aimed at helping tutor/mentor programs grow in all of Chicago's high poverty neighborhoods.

Step 1 includes building a library of information, including information on existing non-school youth serving organizations, and information people can use to borrow ideas from others and innovate actions that lead to constantly improving programs. These actions include new ways to generate flexible operating dollars throughout the program and intermediary network in any city.

Step 2 focuses on the marketing, social media and leadership needed to build public awareness and draw more people to the information in step 1. One of the challenges that must be overcome is the lack of advertising dollars available to create a reach and frequency of message delivery that gets more people involved, and keeps them involved.

Step 3 focuses on ways to help more people understand the information in the library, how it relates to them, and actions they can take to support the growth of one, or many, tutor/mentor programs in the city where they live, or in other parts of the country. There is so much information available that I've written many articles focused on "learning" cultures, where youth and adults are motivated to spend time on a regular basis reading and reflecting on this information.

Step 4 focuses on actions repeated throughout each year, for many years, which generate a greater flow of needed dollars, talent, technology and ideas to every one of the tutor/mentor programs operating in a city, and to every neighborhood where such programs are most needed.

This animation was created to help you understand the four part strategy and strategy map. This PDF also shows the four part strategy. This blog article does the same.

The heart of this strategy is the information collected and shared via step one. Articles I've read about innovation show that if you're exposed to ideas of how other people are already solving the same, or similar programs, you are stimulated in more ways to innovate ways to solve the same problem where you are. I've devoted an entire section of the tutor/mentor library to creativity and innovation ideas.

I've spent the past 40 years thinking of ways to influence youth and volunteers and of ways to build and sustain mentor rich non school programs that focus on the relationships between youth and adult volunteers and the long-term impact these programs can have on youth and volunteers. This, my understanding of how all of these ideas relate to each other is probably more intuitive than most other people in the country.

Yet, because I share my thinking, and my library, others can build learning organizations in high schools, colleges, business and communities and support a process that shares what I've learned with thousands of others, who then add their own ideas and talent to improve what they do to help youth in their communities move through school and into productive, adult lives and careers. Spend time looking at this information, then look for people who may already be leading this strategy in your own community. If you can't find such a group, start it yourselfe, as I did back in 1993.

As you look at this information I hope to connect with you in on-line communities as well as in conferences I host every six months in Chicago or that others are hosting at different times each year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What does "mentoring to career" pipeline look like?

Last Saturday I posted an article with a strategy map, showing commitments many leaders need to take to help youth living in high poverty neighborhoods move from birth to work. Below is another map I hope you'll spend some time looking at. The link is here.

Most of us take for granted the support system we have that helps shape who we are, and how we grow up. This PDF is includes some graphics that show that the network surrounding kids living in high poverty is much different than that of most kids living beyond high poverty areas.

The concept map is intended to show supports that should be available in the lives of youth as they move from first grade to a job and career. This is a "hub and spoke" design, with the spokes leading to nodes indicating a type of support. In a couple of the nodes, such as the homework help section, you can see how I link to a web library with links to quite a few sites that learners could draw ideas from.

This graphic shows the concept map in a different way, yet it intends to communicate the same idea.

I've been seeking volunteers from engineering, design and architecture firms who would help me create an animated version of this graphic. I'm also looking for writers and data visualization people who will help fill each node on this map with links to information people can use to build and sustain age-appropriate non-school learning programs. If someone is working with a youth in 3rd grade, you should be able to click into that section of the graphic, and find information related to mentoring, tutoring and providing social/emotional support for youth at that age level. If you're working with high school kids, you should be able to click into nodes that show things you can do to support high school youth.

You should also be able to find discussion forums where people are sharing ideas, and where funders, policy makers, researchers and business leaders are also participating. Without their involvement in the process, the commitment of resources will be too narrowly focused, and to short a time frame.

The goal of these graphics is to show that youth need a wide range of support at each age level, and they need this support to continue through high school and post high school years. That means the way programs are supported needs to change, to be more consistent.

The maps on this blog intend to show that this "birth to work" support system needs to be available in every high poverty neighborhood, not just a few neighborhoods.

What is the role of volunteer mentors and tutors? They not only can draw from this information to innovate better ways to support the youth they work with. They can use this to help youth in different neighborhoods have access to more of the supports the youth need.

Visit my Tutor/Mentor blog to read more about these ideas.